The REAL Liz Truss: From Bruce Springsteen to being compared to Mrs T

The REAL Liz Truss: From beginning her mornings with a Bruce Springsteen song, the childhood spent eating beetroot flans with her CND parents… and how she feels about being compared to Mrs T – the PM-hopeful reveals all

  • Tory leadership hopeful says she wants tax cuts to ‘stop choking off growth’
  • Liz Truss, 46, is battling Rishi Sunak, 42, to be Britain’s next Prime Minister 
  • She said she is ‘not the slickest, but people know what you see is what you get’ 
  • A YouGov poll said Ms Truss leads Mr Sunak in Tory party members 62% to 38% 

For someone hoping to become the ultimate Boss, it is fitting that Liz Truss fires herself up for her leadership campaign with a morning blast of Bruce Springsteen.

If it is hard to picture the Foreign Secretary singing along to Dancing In The Dark – her favourite song by the singer nicknamed The Boss – that is because of the gulf between her slightly wooden, proto-Thatcher public image and the warmer persona she reveals in private. Just ask the barmen at the Mayfair private members’ club where she regularly hits the dancefloor.

After a slow start to her campaign – it didn’t help that she was halfway to Indonesia when Boris Johnson resigned – the latest polls of Tory members give Ms Truss a commanding lead over Rishi Sunak, suggesting that the party grassroots are unconvinced by the slickness of her rival.

Within six weeks, Ms Truss, who turns 47 on Tuesday, could complete her political odyssey from a childhood eating beetroot flans with her CND parents – via flirtations with anti-monarchist Liberal Democrats and Remainers – to entering Downing Street as the darling of the Tory Right.

Liz Truss, 46, is laying out her pitch to Conservative members to be leader of the party and Britain’s next Prime Minister 

Although Ms Truss could have been knocked out of the contest if five MPs had changed their votes, she has proved hugely popular with the Tory grassroots 

Ms Truss, who turns 47 on Tuesday (July 26), could complete her political odyssey from a childhood eating beetroot flans with her CND parents (left) to entering Downing Street as the darling of the Tory Right

Ms Truss only narrowly made it to this point: it would have taken just five MPs to switch their votes from her to Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt to knock her out of the final run-off. Jubilation was mixed with relief in the Truss camp when the result came through on Wednesday, with the Foreign Secretary celebrating that evening with a visit to Honest Burgers in Covent Garden.

The Foreign Secretary sees herself as the honest broker in the race, having been studiously loyal until Mr Sunak sparked the contest by resigning.

It has damaged his reputation among Boris loyalists in the party membership, but Ms Truss’s allies say this handicap is offset by the fact that Mr Sunak’s long-term ‘plotting’ for the job means that his campaign is more advanced: Ms Truss’s operation has been put together from scratch (they insist) by a small band of tireless public affairs experts with whom she has been close for years.

Even her two daughters Frances, 16, and Liberty, 13, have been drafted in to help with digital marketing – motivated, they say, by the desire to hold sleepovers for their friends in Downing Street.

She loves The Boss and a good burger  

The Bruce Springsteen song used for inspiration by Liz Truss was inspired by his feelings of ‘alienation and fatigue’.

The singer has described the 1984 track Dancing In The Dark as ‘one of my most well-crafted and heartfelt pop songs’, but it features the lyrics: ‘I get up in the evenin’/ And I ain’t got nothin’ to say / I come home in the mornin’ / I go to bed feelin’ the same way / I ain’t nothin’ but tired / Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself / Hey there, baby, I could use just a little help.’

In his memoir Born To Run, he recalls his manager complaining that his forthcoming Born In The USA album did not have a standout song. ‘That evening I wrote Dancing In The Dark, my song about my… desire to get out from inside the studio, my room, my record, my head and live,’ Springsteen wrote. The track became a worldwide hit.

Meanwhile, Ms Truss’s fondness for Honest Burgers is helping to support a British culinary success story. Launched by three friends in a South London market, the restaurant, which uses beef sourced from small farms in Gloucestershire, now has 43 outlets.


Speaking from the £5 million townhouse where her campaign is based – the same Georgian property used by Mr Johnson in 2019, and by Michael Portillo for his infamously aborted bid 24 years ago – Ms Truss refuses to indulge in Westminster’s favourite game of ‘fantasy Cabinets’.

Asked if she’d give Mr Sunak a job if she emerges victorious on September 5, she gently patronises him by hailing the 42-year-old’s ‘bright future’.

‘I’m not giving out jobs in my Cabinet, I think it’s very presumptuous frankly at this stage in proceedings,’ she says.

‘But all of the people who have been part of this leadership contest, including Rishi, are talented people that have a bright future in the Conservative Party. My Cabinet would bring together the best of the Conservative Party, because we are going to need all hands on deck as we go towards the next General Election.’

Battle lines between the candidates have been drawn over tax and – today – immigration, with Ms Truss reiterating to The Mail on Sunday that Mr Sunak’s time in the Treasury coincided with ‘the highest tax levels in Britain for 70 years’.

Ms Truss, a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, hammers Mr Sunak over his £12 billion hike in National Insurance, saying that by axing it she will ‘put more money in the pockets of people who are struggling in this cost-of-living crisis’ and rejects criticism that it will just lead to an even greater UK debt mountain.

Her advisers had their heads in their hands yesterday morning when the economist Patrick Minford, who has backed Ms Truss’s plans, claimed it could lead to interest rates rising to 7 per cent. ‘Idiot,’ was the pithy verdict of one.

Ms Truss says: ‘Our debt as a nation is lower as a proportion of GDP than that of the United States, of Canada and Japan.

‘The problem we’ve got is a lack of growth, that’s the problem we’ve got, and by putting up taxes now we’re choking off that growth, we’re choking off those investment opportunities.’

Hers has been a shapeshifting career, famously incubated by her Left-wing, anti-nuclear parents, John and Priscilla, in first Paisley then Leeds, where she attended a comprehensive school.

‘My mum was very active in the local CND… and in the local Ecology Party which was the precursor to the Green Party, so there were a lot of things like beetroot flan and stuff like that before it became fashionable,’ she says.

There is a gulf between her slightly wooden, proto-Thatcher public image and the warmer persona she reveals in private

Ms Truss has made tax cuts central to her campaign, saying ‘the economic policy at the moment is not delivering the economic growth we need’

‘And yes, she did talk about politics a lot and particularly about what was happening with the USSR, America. We talked about all of those issues.

‘As I got older, I started to question some of those things because I could see, particularly around the fall of the Berlin Wall, that what Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had done by taking on and challenging the Soviet regime so clearly, had been effective in bringing freedom and democracy to huge swathes of Europe.

‘We spent a year in Poland when I was two. My dad’s a maths lecturer and he did a year in Warsaw, which was in 1977, so it was at the time when the Communists were in charge and maybe their positive views about the Eastern Bloc were then coloured by having to wait in queues to get bread.’ The experience was not sufficiently salutary to stop the Trusses from backing unilateral nuclear disarmament – a position they still hold now, despite the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But throughout her teenage years, Liz increasingly questioned her parents’ world view, until she fell in with the Tory set at Oxford.

Her parents found out that their only daughter – she has three brothers – had ‘crossed the floor’ when a friend sent a postcard to her family address saying: ‘Liz, I can’t believe you’re a Tory.’

Ms Truss has also made migration a key policy, saying she will send more migrants to Africa under the government’s Rwanda plan 

Asked if she’d give Mr Sunak a job if she emerges victorious on September 5, Ms Truss gently patronises him by hailing the 42-year-old’s ‘bright future’

How did they react? ‘Well, my mum was quite sanguine and said she’d realised that in some of our discussions I seemed to be on the Right of her. My dad was concerned, I think it’s fair to say.’

She adds that her parents, who are divorced and live in different parts of Leeds, ‘can’t quite believe’ that she might become PM.

Margaret Thatcher’s relations with her two children were strained by the demands of her job, with Carol complaining that she felt neglected.

But Ms Truss appears to have successfully integrated her daughters into her frantic life. ‘They were one and four when I was first elected, so they don’t know anything different apart from politics.

‘I remember carrying Frances round in a baby sling when I was campaigning to be a councillor, so they’ve been brought up on politics, and they’re very involved in what I do, they come campaigning, they’re involved in this campaign, although sometimes they complain that I talk too much about politics.’

The comparisons with Britain’s first female Prime Minister are clearly starting to grate, however.

‘I live in the present day, not in the 1980s,’ she says. ‘I think being a woman in politics, because there haven’t been as many female leaders, you do tend to get compared to Mrs Thatcher. No one seems to be comparing Rishi Sunak to Ted Heath, it’s always about me and Mrs Thatcher, but she was a fantastic leader of our country, but the important thing about Mrs Thatcher is she challenged the orthodoxy; she challenged the groupthink at the time.

‘There were 364 economists that objected to Mrs Thatcher’s plan, and what we are doing at the moment, the economic policy at the moment is not delivering the economic growth we need, and what people voted for across this country in 2016 when they voted Brexit and in 2019 when they voted for Boris, is they voted for change, they voted for us to do things differently, they wanted to see more enterprise, more opportunities.

‘People who voted Conservative for the first time in places like Teesside or West Yorkshire or across the North of England, they were voting for something different, not the same policy that had delivered low growth for 20 years.’

Despite campaigning for Remain in 2016, she presents herself as better placed than Brexit-backer Sunak to exploit the opportunities.

‘My colleagues understand that Brexit isn’t just safe in my hands, that I will go further and faster in delivering all the opportunities with Brexit.’

Does she worry about Mr Sunak’s polished public performances?

‘I’m not going to speak about the other candidate in a race. What people are looking for is somebody that they can trust to deliver on the promises that we made in 2019.

‘I’m not from a traditional Conservative background, I grew up in Paisley and in Leeds, I went to a comprehensive school,’ she says, without pointing out that Mr Sunak attended Winchester, one of the country’s elite private schools.

‘I saw huge amounts of talent being wasted, and I don’t want that to happen. I might not be the slickest performer, I might not be completely polished, but I think people know that with me, what you see is what you get.’

Ms Truss is also unconcerned about having to govern under Mr Johnson’s gaze: ‘I was one of his first supporters to come forward when he won the leadership election, and he achieved a fantastic majority at the General Election.

‘He delivered on Brexit, he delivered on the vaccines and he can be proud of that record, and I don’t believe he’s the kind of person who will be wanting to cast a shadow in any way, he’s an optimistic person, he’s a positive person.’

As a Tory, Ms Truss has to deal with the perceived Leftist slant of social media and the main broadcasters, but she professes herself unconcerned.

‘Boris said “ignore Twitter”, and what he was getting at there is the British people have very, very good instincts and ultimately I trust them to make the right decisions.

‘People can see through the various media, the way the media present things or the way particular outlets present things or the way things are on social media. People are very savvy, so I don’t worry about the brickbats or the Twittersphere.

‘Obviously my favourite outlet is The Mail on Sunday, but having so much media at the moment… people move on quite fast, so what’s here today is gone tomorrow.’

Leading the Twitter brickbats is Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s estranged former adviser who is backing Mr Sunak through aggressive anti-Truss tweets and blogs.

If she is worried about Cummings’s salvos, she hides it well: ‘Given the people of Britain’s views of Dominic Cummings, the fact that he’s not supporting me in the campaign is an asset.’

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